Some small business owners have asked me about the new social media tool, Google Plus or Google+. (A shout-out to Regina S., who scored me an invite!)
Business pages for Google+ became available to the general public this week and so some owners may discount the need to investigate or engage with this new tool. Because Google+ comes from the Mac Daddy of search engines, this tool commands attention. Remember: If Google chooses to use Google+ as a key component of its search algorithm, then small business owners lacking a presence are at a huge disadvantage. The same goes for Google Places. Although other search engines do drive traffic, nothing is in the front seat holding the steering wheel the way Google is.
Small business owners should learn about Google+ now or obtain the services of a small business marketing consultant that understands it. As often is the case with a Google product, Google+ is logical, intuitive and easy to set up. I had a personal page set up with my Gmail account in about five minutes, with good customization after another 10 minutes.
The use of Circles, ways to group people so a users shares as much or as little information as he chooses with that group, and Sparks, a Google Alert-like system of gathering items by topic, could make life easier for someone who spends a great deal of time on the Internet. They also could encourage greater forwarding of information, including the blogs presented by small businesses. Yes, I could see how companies without a blog would be at a huge disadvantage soon.
Basically, Google+ attempts to address one key issue: If the world is overloaded with information through the Internet, then Google+ seems intent on helping me and the people within my Circles more effectively and efficiently curate it for mutual benefit.
It is far too early to suggest exactly how small businesses can exploit Google+. I see the ability to resonate with people who share interests through Circles, to be able to segment people into groups and deliver specific content (a link, a special, etc.) as beneficial. Yes, Twitter and Facebook permit it. But Google tends to get things more right, learning from its competitors and recreating the experience for the better.
Engaging customers with any one-on-one tool can provide new and actionable insights. The possibility of these new insights alone warrants implementing Google+ for business.
Early Google+ demographic information from Experian Hitwise suggests Google+ users are younger, a third between 25 and 34 years old. The information, based on early July results, shows that the majority of users (59%) are men. Google properties, especially Gmail, fed the newcomer. And probably most interestingly, almost one-third (30%) of visitors to Google+ in the week ending July 16 with a credit score were rated between 800 and 900, meaning a highly coveted audience.
Those numbers will change, as more people are invited by the early adopters. People may only participate if invited by a current user.
Of course, the biggest complaint against Google+ or any other new social media tool is how does a business owner find time to invest in another one. The reality is that Google+ is likely to necessitate as much time as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – the Big Three can probably expect to have the newcomer join them. Within a year, maybe sooner, we will be talking about the Big Four.